Students taking the new Construction and Built Environment diploma are missing out on visits to construction sites and career talks from working professionals due to poor curriculum planning, according to an Ofsted report on the implementation of the new courses for 14-19-year-olds.

It recommends greater involvement of employers, suppliers and manufacturers in delivering the courses, to ensure students are motivated and engaged.

The report, based on inspections of five groups of schools and colleges delivering the C&BE diploma, found that teaching of practical construction skills was generally good. However, lessons in the ‘functional skills’ of English, maths and IT were often unengaging and lacked relevance to the rest of the curriculum.

Ofsted also found that the number of girls on the course was ‘very low’, with none in three of the five teaching centres. There was also poor uptake by students from ethnic minorities and those with a disability.

Roy Cavanagh, head of employer engagement for

the C&BE diploma and training manager at Seddons Group, believes that some students failed to realise that functional skills were a key part of the diploma. ‘Some youngsters have been badly advised in choosing the diploma,’ said Cavanagh. ‘They don’t realise that maths, English and ICT are a vital part of the course and it’s not all about practical learning.’

Laura Clarke, education manager at the CIOB, said she was disappointed that just 3% of students on the diploma were girls. ‘We support the recommendations to focus on improving the career guidance for students to avoid gender-stereotypical choices being made,’ she said.

Cavanagh added: ‘If I had my way we would drop the word “construction” from the course title and just call it the Built Environment diploma. For most youngsters construction still means bricklaying or joinery, but these courses cover a whole spectrum of jobs.’

But the report also found the majority of the students interviewed were positive about the diploma, and that overall implementation was deemed satisfactory in all five of the teaching centres visited.

‘It’s always easy to take a swipe at the “new kid”,’ said Nick Gooderson, head of qualifications and standards at ConstructionSkills. ‘But with preliminary uptake figures looking more than positive, and the feedback that we’ve had from students who took up diplomas last year, as well as what we’ve gleaned from stakeholders, we’re happy with the results we’ve seen.’